By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
I am no songbird. I knew a long time ago my voice didn’t have what it took for a solo. I was part of the group, where my so-so voice could blend with dozens of other children in our church choir. I made up for my lack of talent with effort. I memorized all the words, cues and wore my prettiest dresses on the Sundays we got to sing for “big church.” I figured I would distract them with my frilly dresses trimmed in lace and ribbons. Sometimes those dresses were a bit too distracting, especially for a 5-year-old who liked to sway to the music. I got a bit carried away, swaying and lifting up my dress from side to side. My frantic mother all but jumped out of the church pew. From that point on, I kept my hands to my side.
I loved singing the simple songs like “Jesus Loves Me” and “This Little Light of Mine.” Other favorites included “Deep and Wide” and “Father Abraham,” only for the action-packed choreography. By junior high, the true singers of the group stepped up for their solos. The rest of us headed for the pews — some in a dead sprint. I was happy to retire my singing voice. My brother had a better sense of song. Along with my dad, the two would often sing duets together. My mom and I were the silent cheerleaders.
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Throughout the history of Christianity, music has been incorporated into worship — both in Biblical and modern times. In the Old Testament, King David was known for his musical gifts. His son King Solomon wrote literature, but a lot of his prose was set to music. Lesser known musicians include the Levites and Moses’ sister Miriam. And in the New Testament, angels proclaimed the birth of Jesus by song. Today, we celebrate with hymns, praise songs, worship bands, children’s choirs, concerts and special events. Music is routine, one I expect to experience every time I step through the doors of church.
Last Sunday, all those expectations were replaced by something entirely different. Instead of praise and worship, special song and the sermon, the Children of the World International Children’s Choir took over the service. I was delighted; I had forgotten about the concert during the busy work week. The choir is comprised of orphaned or disadvantaged children from different parts of the world, including Uganda, the Philippines and Nepal. The choir travels across the U.S., on a 10-month tour. The tour, in its 12th year, strives to establish clean drinking water for these children and thousands of others. As I watched their faces shine and their voices blend in perfect harmony, I was reminded about my own childhood, the days of simple songs in front of my church family. But that is where the similarities end. My heart grew heavy. These children don’t sing for entertainment. They give their voice for a cause — one that stands the chance of changing their lives and of those of their families forever. I don’t know if I ever sang with a purpose as great as these children. They sing to not only share the Gospel, but to make others aware of the need in their hometown. Have any of us ever used our voices in hopes of clean drinking water in our towns? Many aspiring musicians struggle to make enough money to sustain a lifestyle, but for water? They didn’t seem scared to sing in front of a congregation full of adults and wiggling children. They exhibited a confidence from hours of practice and a determination unlike any other children’s choir.
I don’t feel very confident in my voice. I actually shy away from certain songs. Now, my voice isn’t horribly bad nor it is as painful as Cameron Diaz’s karaoke disaster in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” However, shows like “American Idol” have hurt the average songbird as well. We don’t want to get booted out during the first hymn. Thankfully, church isn’t a competition.
It is a time to sing with joy just like the Children of the World International Children’s Choir. Perhaps a joyful noise? And if we think we don’t have a clear purpose, let’s consider thankfulness, blessings, love, joy and the freedom to sing and worship. We are not all songbirds or musicians, but we can lift our voices just the same.
If these children can travel halfway around the world, sing their hearts out, knowing they are singing for survival, I can sing every Sunday, even without those pretty dresses.
Jamie Parsell is the lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.